Robert M. Price on Myth and Method

Nothing in Hume or Troeltsch or Bultmann, that I can see, bids us reject miracle claims without weighing the evidence. It is just that, given the limitations imposed upon us (until we invent the time machine, that is), we cannot detect “probable miracles” even if they happened! Historical inquiry cannot touch them, even if time travel would show them to have been real!...Faith claims to be able to do an end-run around the data and to obtain certainty about an ostensible miracle via some other way. But what way is that? It is, I think, nothing more than the will to believe.

Hume already allows us to accept a miracle report, provided any naturalistic explanation would sound even more far-fetched than a supernatural one. In appealing to the universal facts of human experience, Hume is being neither deductive nor circular. He is merely appealing to what everyone knows: the frequent reports of the extraordinary we hear from UFO abductees, Loch Ness Monster fans, people who see ghosts or who claim psychic powers, always seem to turn out to be bunk upon examination. From The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, pp. 276-277.


Cole said...

Good points. I think this line of reasoning does weaken the evidential case for the resurrection facts. I don't think the resurrection can be shown to be the BEST EXPLANATION of the facts but I do think that the evidence makes it rational to believe that it happened.

Mark Plus said...

Christians seem to want miracles to go only in one direction. For example, if someone claimed to have witnessed Jesus transform from his supernatural resurrection body into a normal human body, and then died naturally, with the implication that the "plan of salvation" therefore failed, christians would dismiss the account of that "miracle" as an impossibility because it goes against what they prefer to believe.

shane said...

Hey everyone I haven't been on in about a month missed alot of agree with Mark Plus here, I always hear christians giving all kinds of reasons why the miracles of their belief's should be accepted, yet they refuse to apply the same reasons when dealing with other hard to believe claims, or claims from other religions!
It is very double standard!

shane said...

It seems to me that modern christianity is about dreams come true such as-"God has a plan for your life", and "all you have to do is believe and you will be with Jesus in heaven for all eternity", and "God loves you more then you can imagine and He wants to be your heavenly Father".....etc.

Modern christianity is all about appealing to everyones needs and desires rather then old world christianity when religion was the only explaination and was more fire and brimstone type.

Therefore to me christians will believe in all the miracles and unbelievable events that contradict known science aswell as nature in order to keep living their fantasy!

ThatAtheistChick said...

@Mark Plus and Shane, you guys just hit the nail on the head.

Mark Plus said...

@ ThatAtheistChick:

"you guys just hit the nail on the head."

I've wondered if the gospel authors intended to show a relationship between the Jesus' alleged background as a carpenter's son and the part where other guys handy with hammers and nails made a wooden cross and crucified him.

Getting back to my earlier point, the gospel accounts do imply "reverse miracles" in the resurrection stories of insignificant people like Lazarus, who show up at convenient times to demonstrate Jesus' power, then we never hear from them again. What happened to Lazarus after Jesus raised him from the dead? Either Lazarus died in obscurity later, like other normal people; or else he still wanders the earth in a deathless body, nearly 2,000 years after his resurrection, like a character from Highlander.

Given the absurdity of the latter option, that leaves the first one. What good did Jesus' resurrection miracles in the gospels do for people, if the miracles undid themselves later and the people died again? You could ask the same question about his healing miracles for people who also eventually died.

shane said...

Mark Plus.

Good point, God see's fit to heal these people because of his mercy, but then He see's fit to still let them die a physical death from some other painful (or at least very uncomfortable) element?

The whole thing with Lazarus also begs the attention of the going straight to heaven after death thing for believers?....Did Jesus take Lazarus soul out of the bliss of heaven and put him back in his earthly body to live a crummy life back here agian and have to die all over again?......or was Lazarus merely asleep in death waiting for judgment as many scriptures actually indicate?
This is an issue christians sects have been arguing about for centuries!

Hendy said...


Lastly, continuing Mark Plus' concept of inverse miracles in a different direction, I did some googling and found all kinds of interesting negative miracles:

- 40 Catholic pilgrims to Lourdes die in train crash
- 24 Catholic pilgrims die via bus driving off cliff in France
- 15 die on way to Fatima
- 51 Canadian pilgrims die returning from Rome Holy Year trip via plane crash
- 83 Catholic pilgrims die in Philippines bus crash
- 7 Shiite pilgrims die in bus crash
- 60 Hindu pilgrims die in bus crash
- 36 Hindu pilgrims die in Nepal bus crash

There are more. The point is that we have, though a small sample size, a reasonable list of deaths occurring specifically to pilgrims traveling to worship their god. I call these negative miracles -- the improbable occurred with negative results. Surely some of these pilgrims were seeking healing or some sorts.

To close, the beauty of the natural explanation looks like this:
(1) Pilgrims are poeple
(2) People travel by various methods
(3) Accidents have been observed in all various method of travel to occur at various rates (say in deaths per miles-of-travel)
(4) People will experience accidents at various rates (2) & (3)
(5) Pilgrims will experience accidents at various rates of occurrences (1) & (4)

Chance and known facts about travel safety predict that pilgrims will, unfortunately, die when specifically traveling to holy sites since they fall under the 'jurisdiction' of the rules of travel safety.

Divine providence does not offer a better explanation due to the fact that even if it explains miracles extremely well (assuming that god hears the prayers of those seeking healing), it does a horrible job of answering why other pilgrims never even made it to their respective holy sites to ask for that same healing.

Therefore, the naturalistic explanation fits the data (accidents across all people, including pilgrims and even religious varieties of pilgrims) far better than attributing the inexplicable good occurrence to god while sweeping away the inexplicable atrocities under the carpet.

Case closed.

Hendy said...

Miracles are indeed interesting. I recently received an email suggesting I check out the Lourdes miracles. I looked into some and, though extremely impressive, simply responded that inexplicable things happen all the time, but that this does not make them miracles. Thinking further, I noted:

1) miracles that lack repeatability/predictability are more likely due to 'chance', which we already know operates in this manner vs. via a changeless god who promised certain things without qualification but does not deliver according to that promise of repeatability/predictability ('ask anything in my name...')

2) One would expect reports at Lourdes since 5MM pilgrims go there each year and are watched like a hawk for their results.

2a) What 'miracles' would be reported if we stationed record-keepers at every hospital everywhere in the world to track all reports of inexplicable illness disappearances?

2b) Though the site has been up since 1864 or so, only 67 cures are official. Even if an average of 5MM have only been coming for 10 years, this is a 0.000134% healing rate...

To be continued...

Lvka said...

You're very welcome to attend the great blessing of the waters of the river Jordan every year on January 19, to see the Jordan revert its flow, as David wrote in the Psalms; and the ceremony of the Holy Light on Great Saturday, celebrated yearly in Jerusalem, to witness the miraculous properties of the Holy Fire.

I mean, regardless of whether you just pay a lot of ca$h in plane-ticket$ and hotel-re$ervation$ only to find out when it's too late that you've been duped by a complete stranger on the web, OR you actually end up joining our religion, it's a win-win situation for me... :-) ;-)